Early learning encompasses exploration, socialization, problem solving and interaction with the natural environment.
“Studies show if children are interested, they’re going to want to partake in activities. When we see children are interested, we develop our activities around their interests, and where they are developmentally,” explains Melissa de Castro, RECE, Owner of eh to zed Preschool Early Learning Academy in Innisfil.
Emergent programming involves educators observing children throughout the day and developing curriculum around the children’s skills, needs, interests, and everyday living experiences.
“Early childhood educators spend a great portion of their time working with children on self-regulation. A child can be brilliant, know their multiplication tables, win spelling contests, and recite poetry, but without the ability to work through their emotions, they will struggle. Early childhood educators work with children nurturing and building their empathy and compassion. Together they cultivate a society and community of caring and kindness,” says Mary Ann McLennan, RECE, Executive Director at Orillia Central Preschool in Orillia.
Age ranges for early learning begin around 18 months up to 6-years-old depending on the centre and their programming.
“This new curriculum is about building relationships. Behaviours are decreasing because educators focus on the interests of the children,” says Anne Duffy, Program Director at West Ridge Early Education Centre in Orillia.
Educators design learning spaces using neutral colours and wood furniture to ensure children are in a calm space, says de Castro. There are also opportunities to connect with their natural environment.
“We build on what the children have discovered in their natural surroundings. When you ask a child about their fondest memories, it’s generally about the outside. The natural rhythm of the season can build on children’s learning, so they can be a physical part of the things that change, or stay the same,” says Melanie Van Pypen, Director and Lead Educator at Oro-Medonte Forest School in Oro-Medonte.
You can also choose an academic style of program (Casa) that breaks learning into four main areas: practical life, sensorial, language (with an extension of learning in geography, science, art and music), and mathematics, informs Lisa Reynolds, Director and Co-owner at Meadow Creek Montessori in Barrie.
“Our Pre-Casa classroom is a social community of children. Our program is designed to support the development of movement, language, and independence,” says Reynolds.
In Montessori, children socialize within a 3-year age mix, which provides excellent opportunities for the younger ages to learn from the older ones. “The older children take on the role as mentors, which promotes a tremendous sense of pride and confidence,” explains Reynolds.
The biggest challenge parents face when choosing an early education program is the availability of space as well as cost.
“We’re not meeting the needs of the community,” says Duffy. “We could build two new centres, fill them, and still have a waiting list.”
The cost for early education varies depending on the program you choose, whether it’s full-day, half-day, or for multiple children from the same family.
Check early learning centre websites for more information.
eh to zed Preschool Canada Early Learning Academy, Innisfil
Meadow Creek Montessori, Barrie
Orillia Central Preschool, Orillia